Poutinerie by
Air Canada

Flagship carrier sends a culinary
favourite winging its way through Tokyo


It may not be haute cuisine, but if there’s one kind of food that is really loved in Canada, it’s poutine. The combination of french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds got its start in Québec, but it has grown to be a nationwide hit.

However — barring a few exceptions — it’s not easy to find in Tokyo. But last year, for little over a week, that changed, and Tokyoites had the opportunity to try the dish for themselves.

Poutinerie by Air Canada is a pop-up shop that has been set up in a few cities around the world, such as Washington, DC, London and Boston. But it hadn’t been tried in an Asian city until the dish came to Tokyo. The pop-up shop took over the Hills Café space at Roppongi Hills from November 29 to December 7.

On offer at the Poutinerie were 10 varieties of the tasty food, each named for a city that Air Canada serves. The snacks offered ranged from Québec City, the classic recipe, to Lima, which is made with wedge-cut potatoes, shrimp ceviche and lemon mayonnaise.

In one section of the space, there were three large booths where people could take pictures for posting on social media: Yellowknife, named after the Northwest Territories city, with a suitably wintry backdrop and warm hats to wear; Las Vegas, done up like a casino; and Havana, featuring a sofa that looked like the back of the classic American cars that you see in Cuba, as well as a guitar and straw hat to be used as props. Another corner had a virtual reality setup that allowed guests to experience what it would be like to fly in business class on Air Canada.

As Kiyo Weiss, director of Sales Asia Pacific at Air Canada explained, the idea to have the Poutinerie in Tokyo first arose in January 2019, and the final decision was made last summer. As the company has run the pop-up shops a number of times, the execution was quite smooth.

“The biggest challenge was to have the caterer understand what real poutine is,” Weiss explained. “We held multiple tasting sessions and image reviewing sessions before we were finally satisfied with the dishes.”

Of course, the purpose of the Poutinerie wasn’t just to broaden Tokyoite’s culinary horizons, but also to build brand awareness. Every day, air tickets were given away to visitors who posted and tagged photos of the Poutinerie, and the catchy names of the poutine varieties helped to reinforce Air Canada’s global reach in visitors’ minds.

In all regards, Weiss said that the event was a smashing success: 5,246 people visited the Poutinerie and 7,118 boxes of poutine were served. A total of 1,064 people posted pictures on Instagram and Twitter, and those postings generated 8,474 likes. The pop-up shop was covered 94 times in the press; had payment been made for the coverage, it would have cost ¥55.3 million.

Given the good results, there’s a strong possibility that the Poutinerie will make another stop in town. Now that’s a thought to savour.

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